Open Captions vs. Closed Captions: What’s the Difference?

September 9, 2016 BY ELISA LEWIS
Updated: March 9, 2021

Whether you’re new to the accessibility world, or an expert, you’re probably familiar with closed captions. But, you’re probably less familiar (or maybe not familiar at all) with open captions. Let’s learn the difference between closed captioning vs open captioning!

What are open captions vs. closed captions?

The short answer to this question is that closed captions can be turned off, while open captions cannot. But, let’s delve a little deeper! Closed captions mean that the captions are on a separate track, thus allowing them the ability to be turned on or off with just the push of a button on your video player or remote. Open captions, however, are burned into the video itself, so they’re always showing and can’t be turned off.

How do they work?

The process for creating closed and open captions is the same – the difference lies in how the captions are associated with your video. For both closed and open captions, you must first transcribe an audio file into text. At 3Play Media we do this with a unique process that combines automatic speech recognition technology with human editing. Then, the text and media need to be synchronized so that the text can be viewed at the same time as the words are spoken. Captions reflect all forms of audio information, not just speech. This means they include relevant sound effects and music, too! Captions have been around since the early 1980s as an FCC mandate for broadcast TV, and with the fast implementation of new technology, they’ve gradually become required for web video, too.

Closed captions are published by uploading a separate caption file to your video platform or player. The platform associates your caption file and video file and plays them together, allowing users to turn captions on or off with the CC toggle button.

To publish open captions, you need to actually burn the captions into the video file itself. Once you have captions for your video, you can add open captioning. When ordering open captioning from 3Play Media, we will output a video file that contains your source video with the captions burned into the file so they will always appear. When the open captioning is complete, an email will be sent to notify you that the files are available for download as an M4V video file. The video will work with any player or device that supports M4V videos.

Source with Open Captions.

Why would you use open captions?

Now that you know the difference between open captions and closed captions, you may be wondering what the benefits of using open captions are. Since open captions are part of the video itself they provide the advantage of being supported by all video players and devices. Open captions also eliminate inconsistencies across different video players and allow publishers to control the exact size and style of the captions. Another advantage of open captions is that they make it easier to create DVDs and other physical media.

Whether you choose to use closed or open captions, make all your videos accessible- start captioning with 3Play Media today!


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